Isolation, Community Pantry and Anzac Day


What a whirlwind this week has been! You can actually be busier than ever, stuck at home. Projects that were lying dormant, have been completed.

I had a dream about starting a community pantry, and by chance, the next day, my lovely friend, Lisa, mentioned that she wanted to as well! We put the call out for a suitable pantry-holder, and a friend dropped in a locker. Not only was it weatherproof, but cool enough for us to put some Easter eggs inside! Lisa printed and laminated signs for the outside, and we managed to fill it. We decided to put it at the back of the bus stop, outside our local park. Within a day, things were taken, and it filled my heart when I saw a teenager and his little sister shyly approach the locker. “Are you sure it’s okay to take stuff?” the little girl asked. They took a few items, and closed the door, and I saw them walk to a house near the park. As items are taken, more appear. If it provides a meal for a family, or saves people from having to go to the supermarket for one or two items, we are pleased. We sanitise it at least once a day. Times are tough for so many people. Many have never needed to rely on Centrelink, nor charities before, and it takes time to wrap your head around it. One of the bravest things one can do, is ask for help. Everything is cyclical; you are the giver in one instance, and you must accept help in turn.

 

There was a rap at my door last weekend, and I was surprised, as nobody comes to visit at the moment! Standing on my porch, was my friend, Donna. She runs Butterflies Florist, and was holding a bouquet of flowers. It reminded me of how birds call out to each other when they can’t be seen. They are letting each other know that they are okay. At dawn, they call out to assure their compatriots that they made it through the night. This felt like a call from friends I hadn’t been able to see since this began.

 

Another dear friend (knowing my love of hummingbirds), dropped off a piece of art at my front door.

 

Yesterday was Anzac Day, and for the first time, we weren’t able to attend a communal dawn service, and see friends afterward. I felt for all the veterans and their families, for whom the day was usually set aside to connect with each other. They must feel bereft. My daughter and I held a dawn service in our driveway, and it was haunting; the Last Post playing from my television, as we stood in silence. Daybreak was smeared with honey and saffron hues, and kookaburras started laughing. A friend mentioned that she was going to her volunteer shift at Lifeline, anticipating a busy evening. Calls have escalated since all this began, which is no great suprise. As I walked around the neighbourhood, I saw wreaths woven from rosemary, tied together with red ribbons; poppies decorating front yards. One lady had a basket of rosemary out, asking passers-by to take a sprig for remembrance.

 

I am apprehensive about the gradual return to school, and as it turns out, so are quite a few teachers and principals. The following was a post from a friend of mine at the coalface, posted with her permission:

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On a positive note, I have trained my little dog to fetch the paper and pamphlets. She hasn’t quite grasped letting it go though, demanding that I chase her! On every walk, I find that I am noticing beauty as never before. It’s as though with the absence of distractions, we’re able to appreciate beauty more readily. I hope that this remains when we come out of hibernation.

Week 3 of Isolation


How are you going?

Drop me a line to let me know. This is a community, and honestly, I have never felt as close to folks as now. Stripped of all extraneous detritus, we can be real, and we are.

Exhaustion

There have been so many commenting on this phenomenon, and all are relieved to know they aren’t the only ones. Even when you have work and study to occupy your time, trying to focus is challenging. Even when you have managed a solid sleep, you are still exhausted. Your mind is trying to cope with an altered reality. All of this is normal, under the circumstances.

Losing the plot over  your internet connection and/or websites or pages that won’t load

I lost it the other night, and it wasn’t pretty! Not being able to get onto an online lesson before it started, had me enraged. Of course, it wasn’t really about the above. Rather, it was deeper. There was rage at the people still having parties and not keeping a distance from others. Acting like the virus was not only not in their consciousness, but within society. Whilst some of us are into our third week (or more), of self-isolating, these individuals carry on as though they don’t have a care in the world. I am enraged by them. I am angered that our frontline workers have been abused, and that they have cause to worry about obtaining adequate PPE. 

Anxiety

Those periods where you are frozen to your seat, refreshing your phone for no reason in particular? Those times when you can’t collect your thoughts, and you pace the length of your house, unable to recollect why you needed to go to a particular  room? It has to do with anxiety. It comes out in funny ways. I felt all this after a trip to the chemist and supermarket. Masked up, whenever anybody dared come near with their trolley, my senses would heighten. Going through self-serve felt like a dangerous exercise. If only the virus was tinted a certain hue (like cornflour in a colour run), so you could see where the little bastard was hiding out!

Sadness

Sadness for friends who were going through trauma before Covid-19. Separation, divorce, ill-health, financial trouble… Certainly, the virus has introduced a perfect storm into their lives. Now they have to bunker down with those who’ve hurt them. They aren’t able to work in their chosen field, and going to hospital for treatment just got a whole lot more stressful. I feel sad for those who live alone, and are isolated. I feel sadness for those who have lost their jobs. I feel sad for those that can’t attend funerals, birthday celebrations, weddings and other occasions. I feel sad that we can’t hug. There is a whole lot to feel sad about. 

On the other side of the equation, there is gratitude

Our complicated lives have been stripped back to basics. We are living frugally, and spending more time than ever within our homes. We are connecting with friends we haven’t seen for some time. There have been mates who’ve invited me to Zoom meetings, that I hadn’t seen in years. We have checked out each other’s houses and isolation hair. We have toasted each other, and shared recipes. There have been messages flowing, and even groceries delivered to my door. I have never felt more thankful.

Pets

Friendly the cockatiel and Minnie the Pomchi, have kept us entertained and our spirits up. Friendly sings the Adam’s Family Theme Song, whilst dancing. Minnie enjoys playing ball and wading in her little pool outside. We go for walks with our puppy each day, something which brings us joy. She is as stubborn as a mule, when she doesn’t want to move, though thankfully she is little enough to tuck under an arm. Her favourite treat is a cold carrot from the fridge.

Gardens and sunshine

The virus feels so distant, when sitting out the back, surveying the geraniums and herbs in our garden with the sun bearing down on our shoulders. Autumn in Sydney is pretty magical, even at a time like this.

The Arts

Have you ever noticed that in times of trouble, the people in the arts always donate of their time and energy? Can you imagine what this period would be like, without music, paintings, shows, movies and online content? What about books and dancing? When this is over with, let’s support those who helped get us through. 

This is Week 3, done. A trip to the shops, leading to wondering where this bastard virus is hanging out, and with whom. Laughter shared by strangers at the ludicrous nature of our current existence. Helping someone find a particular item, whilst keeping the hell away from them. Holding one’s breath as a precaution when somebody miles away sneezes. Suffering the indignity of my daughter winning seven games in a row of Guess Who? Signing up for three different courses in one frenzied morning. Looking at the brown bananas, and declaring that I really should do some baking with them, before forgetting (then saying it again the next morning). Sorting out the pantry, and making use of the Tupperware (finally). Decluttering, and then being left with bags of stuff with nowhere to go, as charity shops and council throw-outs aren’t collecting for the time being. Hoping to heaven that I don’t have to rely on any call centre to fix an issue, as most are closed. Laughing hysterically at the most pedestrian of things online.

May you have a restful Easter, no matter where you are. May you have peace, and may we never endure a time such as this ever again.

 

Home


Two of my favorite people had devastating news this week. They live on opposite sides of Sydney, and a week ago were connected only by their association with me. Now, they have a health diagnosis in common. One is in Intensive Care, and the other is going into hospital tomorrow. If they met, I know they would adore each other. Cheeky, irreverent and making me laugh to the point of tears. I have never found a place that truly feels like home. Could it be that it is contained in people, because these two feel like home. No social niceties and pretense; you come as you are and are loved for it. 

I spent yesterday with my soul sister. She is being admitted to hospital tomorrow. We talked for fourteen hours without pause. We talked about many things, none connected. We showed each other silly pictures on our phones, my friend proudly displaying the various poses of her beloved dog. We determined that she is going to set up a blog for this pooch, to gift the world with its wisdom. We laughed at nonsense, and reflected on times gone by as we looked through old albums. Man, the times we have had! She is afraid, and I would give anything to trade places with her. I wish it was me, rather than her and my other dear friend. I would sell all my possessions if it meant they didn’t have to go through this. 

We had cups of tea and drinks of water, food and Stevie Nicks playing throughout our day, afternoon and night. I wanted my friend to stay over, and she dearly wanted to stay as well. She couldn’t, as she needed her medications, which were at her place. We prolonged the inevitable for as long as we could. “What kind of tree is that?” she asked as she looked up in my front yard. “Canadian maple, I think,” I replied. She laughed so hard, when she realized that it wasn’t, not even close. “Well, whatever it is, it’s got buds, and will be in bloom when you come next,” I smiled. We talked some more at her car, and I held her longer than normal, tearing up. “I love you so very much,” I whispered. She told me that she loved me too. 

Our Saturday was raw, intimate and real. I looked at this spectacular human in awe and wonder. She has gifted me so much. I wish my other friend could have been with us. In the morning, she will be in hospital, undergoing tests. I looked at her tiny feet and laughed, recalling when I gifted her red sequinned ruby slippers. I had to get a child’s size for her. I wish she could click those heels three times and be anywhere other than hospital. You are both my home, and I love you. You have both been through so much; this is yet another battle, of which you shall handle with your usual pizzazz. I will be there, cheering you on. If you falter in your step, I will lend you strength; all those that love you shall. You can do this. Life has only just begun.

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Hello Kitty Café, Friends and Sydney


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Sydney in Autumn is a sight to behold. We walked around to drama, dodging trucks and construction of the light installations for Vivid, which starts this weekend. There were buskers and tour groups taking in the history of The Rocks. My daughter has a ritual before her class. I give her money and she buys a strawberry donut from a takeaway shop at Circular Quay. The elderly Vietnamese man sees her approach, and has the donut in the bag before she asks. My daughter says they are the best donuts in the world. We weave our way through wedding parties and photographers, my daughter entranced by the gowns, but grossed out by the romance and smooching. I call our day in the city my caffeine day. When you have such extraordinary coffee and barista’s at your disposal, why wouldn’t you indulge? To redeem myself, I order the best salad in Sydney. Spoilt for choice, it is hard to settle on one, and they are a triumph of assembly. The sort that you wouldn’t bother making yourself at home, unless you had a spare hour or so.

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Scenes such as the one above take my mind off my physical pain. Thank heavens my daughter’s balance is better than mine! On this particular day, I decided to travel over the Harbour Bridge on the train, to see friends. I insisted we try the quirky Hello Kitty Café at Chatswood.

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My friend and I are under the care of an endocrinologist. Both of us are sugar-impaired, shall we say, and we try to behave. This was something of our last hurrah on that front, which is just as well.

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Yes, I drank/ate the Freak Milkshake above, and was suitably buzzing and silly afterward! To my delight, they had a tofu burger on the menu.

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It was a sweet little café, and we enjoyed our outing. It has taken me two days to get over our big day out, but you gotta live, right? I had seen this place had opened over a year ago, and determined to go one day and check it out. It niggles at you, doesn’t it? The events you miss and promise to get to the next year, the things you want to do and people you want to see. Sometimes you just have to do it. We are looking forward to the next adventure! Sydney is brimming with them!

Beaches and Visiting the Past


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We met up with some families this week at Bondi Beach. It’s a lovely trip by bus from the city, and you get to meet some real characters. On our last trip, we came across a regal ninety year old woman, dressed to the nines. My daughter still talks about her, and she has provided a point of reference for the possibilities offered in older age. I had put 50+ sunscreen on my daughter, and myself, though I neglected my neck, to my peril. It was cool and overcast when we arrived, a dangerously deceptive combination. It didn’t take long for the sun to burst forth, in all it’s sizzling glory. There was something special about being at Bondi Beach, particularly when you don’t have the hassle of obtaining parking. A bus is the way to go! The kids had great fun, alternating between the beach and pool.

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The next morning, we got up and did it all again, this time going to Balmoral Beach. On the way, we had cupcakes and ice cream at The Classic Cupcake Co. in Double Bay. Oh my goodness! Made from natural ingredients, they were a taste of heaven. I had the Midnight Mint Cupcake.

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As we made our way to the beach, we witnessed a near-collision in Double Bay. An inch more and the cars would have hit. The woman who had nearly caused the accident decided to come into our lane in her ostentatious car. My friend beeped at her to warn her that we were too close behind, and the other driver made some very rude gestures! She was perfectly coiffed, aged in her fifties and old enough to know better. Money can’t buy class! The kids ran to the water, whilst we ordered chips and potato scallops. I smiled as seagulls gathered around. I fancy myself as a Bird Woman, whom understands their secret language. “I will give you a chip or two,” I smiled. “Just let me open the box.” Out of nowhere, a seagull swooped and its claws scraped the side of my face. Another one followed suit, and it pecked my face as it searched for a chip. “Little buggers!” I cried! “P*%$ off!” They were vicious; intent on stealing chips, and there were so many gathered that we were forced to move off the beach. I had never seen anything like it! Normally, birds love me! They followed us to a table, and fortunately, a Pomeranian named Romeo gallantly chased them away. The brave little dog received lots of pats from the kids!

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We caught a train to an inner-city stop, and as we waited for my daughter’s dad to drive us home, I decided to show my little girl where we once lived. It was a semi-detached house in a grand old street, shaded by towering trees. I got a real kick out of pointing out where our Aboriginal neighbour lived, as well as two elderly sisters, now departed from this world. I stopped at the gate to our former abode, picturing myself at 20. I was writing and had started my business here, creating art for shops in Newtown and the city. I had also started my journey of infertility here, having been given a strong injection which was promised to slow the progression of endometriosis (which they hadn’t determined I had). Instead of making me feel better, it caused side-effects so violent that I was bed-ridden for a good year. It was here I feared I would never have my daughter, and it was here I wished with all my heart that I would.

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As I glanced up at canopy of trees, I was appalled that I had ceased to appreciate them properly at the time. They don’t preserve streets and grand architecture as they used to; like they did on this particular street. My daughter was taken with the street art, and the park at the end of the street. As I watched her roll down a hill and perform cartwheels, my throat constricted with emotion. The amount of times I sat on that very hill in that little park… Dreaming of having a child, and of what life might be.

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I sat next to her, and told her of the life I lived long before she arrived. I talked of my hopes and dreams, and also of my fears. I hadn’t been back to the street for many years. I can still hear the mail being dropped through the slot in our door. I can still feel the warmth from the old gas oven in the kitchen I painted turquoise. I can see me. I haven’t changed that much, except that I am weathered. We all get weathered along the way, to varying degrees. Distressed and shabbily chic. I am glad I thought to take her back. I hope that the girl on the hill could feel our visitation through time and space. I hope she could sense that she was going to be okay. I hope she could sense the little girl doing cartwheels nearby. I am glad I got too see the canopy of trees, as if for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Breathing


I woke up last week, battling to breathe. I have had struggles with my lungs in the past, to the point where I have suffered respiratory arrest. Of course, this didn’t stop me smoking unfiltered Turkish cigarettes as a youngster, a fact that now makes me cringe. The damage that my spine has suffered has compromised my breathing, so if I catch a virus, I feel it ferociously. A doctor who administers Botox  on the side was able to see me, his secretary pulling faces as he repeated orders that she had already seen to. He had forgotten that she can pre-empt his every move. He is a raconteur, a larger-than-life medico. He was straight onto what needed to be done to help me breathe.

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I started on my steroids and various medications, unable to  lift my head from the pillow. My little girl put the washing out, fed me and schooled herself, using online resources. I was drenched in sweat from my fever, and drifted in and out of disjointed, fitful sleeps. A dear friend who is undergoing chemotherapy brought around soup and rolls. “I think it was Auntie Di,” my little girl said as she brought in my lunch. “She had a scarf over her face.” I was so glad she did! The next day, another friend left a bag at the back door. This lady is a single mum, and not well herself. To have friends call around when they are going through tough times themselves…A little girl called Blossie popped in with her mum to visit, and word of my pneumonia even hit the street. We found a little doll and card lovingly placed in our letterbox, overflowing with a local character’s best wishes. People offered to help in any way they could. It meant so much. To know people cared, and we weren’t alone. I am overjoyed that my daughter is able to see such striking examples of kindness. I could have got worse, and needed to be in hospital, and the assurance that friends were nearby helped alleviate a great deal of worry.

 A container of soup is much more than it’s ingredients. It’s the energy of love, comfort and support. It says that you care, and want to nourish your loved one. Thankyou to my beautiful friends for being there. It’s back to the real world this week, and though I still feel weak, I am bolstered by the kindness shown. At this stage, my doctors won’t operate to provide pain relief to my spine, as it simply wouldn’t help. It is only when mechanically I need to be rebuilt so I can breathe easier that they will go in. I just need to get through winter, and then I will be okay for another year. I reckon I can do it! I have been reminded that I am not doing it alone.

24 Hours


Yesterday I woke up feeling ill. My specialist has put me on a new medication, and I know I have to give myself time to adjust. It was bitterly cold and the sky was grey. Someone had smeared the sky with charcoal. My stomach was distended as the endometriosis grew, fed by this new drug, which I need. “Look at the big picture, Raphie,” I urged. Always look at the big picture. I felt the urge to scream from the pain, and the desire to clean and discard. I did both. Why the hell do we keep the things we do? Old numbers on scraps of paper, old ways of being. I put an angel who had lost her wings into the pile of donations. I had stored my maternity clothes in a special drawer. I looked at them, and wondered why I had held on so long. My subconscious must surely have been seared every time I went past that drawer, even if I was unaware. As I washed up, I exhaled heavily. A burden had been lifted. I then heard the ‘snap’ of my spine as I was dragged along the ground after my fall. It was as distinct as though it were happening then and there. “Oh my God!” I cried, bursting into tears. I sat with the memory a while. I assured myself that it was natural to have events, sounds, smells and more clamour to the forefront on the anniversary. On White Ribbon Night.

After school pickup, a friend popped in. She hugged me, and said how sorry she was that today was “the day.” It meant the world to have it acknowledged. This lady knows all about “those days.” The pain ramped up, and I was in a holding pattern of agony, fevers and chills. There was to be a meeting of gentle souls around the corner that evening, and I determined that I would go. I didn’t want to be home with my memories. The hostess is a vegan, and she had made this delicious main meal.

Tofu and nuts.
Tofu and nuts.

We laughed and talked about foster kids, homelessness, travelling, art and beauty. We sipped coconut water and made sure room was saved for this.
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I didn’t stay late, and I gave my gorgeous friend a tight hug and thanked her. My mind had been summoned to wondrous places, leaving that dark building on a winter’s night. The pain was softened by the graciousness of a nourishing meal and a room full of good people. I went home and hugged my little girl, smoothing her tendrils of honeyed hair. “May your world be markedly different, my darling.”